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I Spoke Up for Israel at Michigan State University; And I Will Do So Again

Michigan State University sign. Photo: Ken Lund.

I have always been shy. Until I started college, I was never confident in myself as a leader and definitely not willing to speak up, even regarding issues I am passionate about. In elementary school, I was too nervous to talk in class. I had many friends, all sensitive to how “I wasn’t ready yet” and on my path to finding my voice.

Today, I am proud to declare that I am a Zionist. I stand with Israel.

On October 19, a mere 12 days after Hamas brutally attacked and infiltrated Israel, murdering, raping, and kidnapping thousands of Israelis, the Associated Students of Michigan State University (ASMSU) passed a resolution calling on Michigan State to “address the ongoing Palestinian crisis and support Palestinian students and all impacted students.”

The Arab Cultural Society (ACS), Muslim Student Association (MSA), Students United for Palestinian Rights (SUPR), Yemeni Student Association (YSA), Egyptian Student Association (ESA), Students Organize for Syria (SOS), and March for Our Lives (MFOL) introduced Bill 60-30.

While the title sounds empathetic, a strong one-sided bias is evident throughout the legislation.

The bill is plagued with misinformation. The authors state that “under International Law, the Palestinian people have the right to defend against colonialism and apartheid experienced in … Gaza and the West Bank … in which Israel still has control over.”

For one, Israel is not an apartheid state.

Israeli Arabs have the same legal rights as Jewish Israelis, serve in the Israeli parliament, hold successful careers, and are integrated into society. In comparison, an apartheid state imposes racial segregation under the law, which is not the case in Israel. Furthermore, Israelis are not colonialists as they are indigenous to the land. You cannot be a colonizer in the land where you are from.

It is also important to point out that Israel doesn’t control Gaza or the entire West Bank. Israel withdrew completely from the Gaza Strip in 2005, and since then, no Jewish people have inhabited the territory. Gaza is fully controlled by the terrorist organization Hamas, and Area A of the West Bank, where the majority of Palestinians live, is governed by the Palestinian Authority.

The Michigan State bill makes the addition of Jewish students to the legislation seem like an afterthought, when it claims that “ASMSU will support Palestinian, Arab, Jewish, and allied people.”

It’s clear from this language that members of the Michigan State community are not equally represented through this bill.

On October 19, at the ASMSU General Assembly meeting, approximately 50 Jewish students and 70 Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim students, along with their allies, attended to determine the fate of Bill 60-30.

Palestinian students and their allies were seated on the right and had tape over their mouths to demonstrate that their beliefs were being “silenced.” This was ironic considering that the bill gravely underrepresented Jewish students and included propaganda spread by pro-Palestinian students.

At one point, a student in support of the bill exclaimed, “this is genocide, this is apartheid, this is not political.” They presented these claims without any proof — as none could be offered.

I, too, agree this is not “political.” 1,200 Israelis were brutally murdered by Hamas, a terrorist organization that vows to murder Jews globally, and 240 innocent Israelis remain in their custody in Gaza.

The President of ASMSU claimed this critical fact was “not germane to the bill.”

Many students speaking in support of the anti-Israel bill also tried to equate the actions of Hamas with the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), a ludicrous comparison that has no basis in truth. It is a known fact that Hamas is a terrorist organization recognized as such by the United States, Canada, Australia, EU, and the United Kingdom.

The IDF is the world’s most moral army, going as far as to warn Gazan civilians exactly where they are attacking hours or even days beforehand. No other country does this.

Unfortunately, Israel is fighting against terrorists, who use innocent civilians as human shields. There is no realistic way to avoid casualties. Let’s be clear: collateral damage is not the same as intentionally targeting civilians, like what Hamas does.

The students on the Palestinian side detailed graphic statements of events not relevant to the discussion at hand, such as the murder of Wadea Al Fayoume, without any scrutiny from student government representatives.

How are details of the murder of a six-year-old in Chicago  “germane” to a bill that demonizes the State of Israel?

I gave my public comment, and it was the most nerve-racking speech I ever gave, proving that I had indeed found my voice. My heart was racing as I identified myself as a Zionist, and immediately, the “other half” of the room responded by holding up Palestinian flags, pictures of Wadea Al Fayoume, and waving posters with horrible messages that I could not convince myself to read.

After speaking, I was too afraid to go out into the hallway to buy a bottle of water from the vending machine, concerned that I would be harassed for staying true to myself.

I never thought something like this would happen at my university.

Unfortunately, the General Assembly representatives responded to ACS’s intimidation tactics, and the anti-Israel students’ lies and chants. They passed bill 60-30. I do not feel represented by the students elected to represent me. It is evident that they only speak for those who yell the loudest lies and unabashedly target Jewish students.

Laela Saulson is a senior at Michigan State University.

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Newly Elected Argentine President Javier Milei Says He Will Visit Israel in Advance of Inauguration

Argentina’s president-elect Javier Milei greets supporters in Buenos Aires. Photo: Reuters/Cristina Sille

Javier Milei, the surprise victor in Argentina’s presidential election on Sunday, has said that he will visit both the United States and Israel in advance of taking office.

“I travel with some regularity to the United States. From New York I will go to Israel — we have already been talking to the Israeli Ambassador in Argentina,” Milei disclosed in a radio interview on Monday morning.

A populist maverick who defines himself as an “anarcho-capitalist” and has been dubbed “El Loco” (“The Crazy One”) by critics, Milei’s love of Judaism and strong support for Israel were central features of his campaign, demonstrated by the frequent appearance of Israeli flags at his campaign rallies.

The new Argentine leader studies Torah with Rabbi Shimon Wahnish, who is based in Buenos Aires, and has openly talked on several occasions about converting to Judaism — adding the caveat that doing so would be impossible if he was elected president, as the demands of the office would be incompatible with observing core Jewish practices like Shabbat, when observant Jews do not use telephones and electronic devices. His forthcoming trip to the US would be centered on spending time with his “rabbi friends” in New York, he said, explaining that his visit “has more of a spiritual connotation than anything else.”

Among the first individuals to meet with Milei following his triumph over his left-wing rival Sergio Massa — garnering 56 percent of the votes against 44 percent in the second round of the election — were the Israeli Ambassador in Buenos Aires, Eyal Sela, along with a delegation from the AMIA Jewish Center in the Argentine capital.

A separate statement from the DAIA, the representative body of Argentina’s 180,000-strong Jewish community, congratulated Milei on his victory, highlighting a fresh opportunity to “fight against antisemitism, discrimination, and xenophobia”; as with many other countries around the world, antisemitism has surged in Argentina in the wake of the Hamas pogrom in southern Israel on Oct. 7 and Israel’s military response.

The DAIA statement also invoked the more than 240 hostages seized by Hamas terrorists during their onslaught, pointing out that their number includes 21 Argentine citizens. “We want the Argentine authorities … to use all available resources to obtain the freedom of the hostages and their prompt return home,” the statement declared. On the campaign trail, Milei had been critical of the previous Argentine government in this regard, asserting that its “position is too soft for this aberrant situation. It does not advance the definitions in a concrete way and leaves the door open to terrorists. And with terrorists there is no negotiation.”

The Israeli government was also quick to congratulate Milei, with Foreign Minister Eli Cohen reminding the president-elect of his campaign promise to move Argentina’s Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to the capital Jerusalem.

“We look forward to working together with you to strengthen relations between Israel and Argentina and deepen ties between our peoples,” Cohen wrote in a post on X/Twitter. “I invite you to visit Israel soon, to continue our dialogue and inaugurate the Argentine Embassy in Jerusalem, the capital of Israel.”

The victory of Milei — an economist and TV pundit — comes at a time of extreme economic hardship in Argentina, where annual inflation has risen to 143 percent with 40 percent of the population living below the poverty line. His election suggests that the majority of Argentines want to break the mold of their country’s politics, opting to take a risk on a candidate who blames Argentina’s central bank for the current financial crisis and advocates replacing the peso, the national currency, with the US dollar. An ardent admirer of former US President Donald Trump, Milei is an unabashed social conservative, opposing abortion, supporting the liberalization of gun ownership laws, and expressing skepticism about climate change.

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Middle East War Reporting: Avoiding the Pitfalls

Illustrative: Thousands of anti-Israel demonstrators from the Midwest gather in support of Palestinians and hold a rally and march through the Loop in Chicago on Oct. 21, 2023. Photo: Alexandra Buxbaum/Sipa USA via Reuters Connect

Since Hamas’s unprecedented onslaught in Israel on Oct. 7, the Jewish state has been forced into a struggle to ensure its survival, to free hostages abducted to Gaza, and to disarm terrorists of their ability to again imperil Israelis and Palestinians alike.

At the same time, information warfare has dramatically escalated on both social media and traditional news platforms. Rumors, misinformation, and false equivalence between Israel and Hamas have fed a surge of global antisemitism and undermined international support for Israel’s obligation to defend itself.

Journalism is vital in democratic societies — and war coverage presents immense challenges. But with the stakes of reporting so high, news correspondents bear the responsibility of ensuring accuracy and comprehensiveness in reports.

Here are seven guidelines that all news outlets should adopt to avoid common pitfalls in reporting on this complex and dynamic story.

One: Question Hamas statistics. Fatality figures and other “official” claims from Gaza, including the classification of casualties as civilians, must not be accepted uncritically — and need to be relayed as unconfirmed assertions of Hamas-controlled entities. Since 2007, Hamas has ruled Gaza. Like other malign actors with an interest in manipulating public perceptions, Hamas has made obvious its unreliability as a source of unvarnished data.

Two: Authenticate photos and footage. Caution must also apply to visual material from sources affiliated or aligned with Hamas, which can be staged or misleading. The initial media misrepresentation of the Oct. 17 explosion outside Gaza’s Al-Ahli Hospital demonstrated this hazard. Similarly, reports of shortages in Gaza’s civilian needs must account for the substantial aid long channeled to the Strip, and Hamas’ seemingly unimpeded ability to finance terrorist infrastructure and missiles.

Three: Terror is terror. If attacks similar to Hamas’ — deliberate, indiscriminate carnage among civilians, for ideological reasons — were to be described as terrorism elsewhere, the same must be done when victims are Israeli. Hamas’ atrocities have mimicked or even surpassed attacks by Islamist extremists in other settings, and are undergirded by a common doctrinal framework, reflected in Hamas’ own charter and its leaders’ pronouncements.

Four: “It’s (not) the occupation, stupid.” It’s essential to explain that Hamas’ attacks cannot correctly be attributed to “Israeli occupation.” Israel withdrew completely from Gaza — including all soldiers and Jewish settlements — in 2005. Since then, Hamas has only continued to intensify attacks targeting Israeli civilians. Its attacks have led to Israel’s defensive measures. Hamas’ theology openly rejects Israel’s existence within any borders. After the Gaza withdrawal, Israel again offered Palestinians full statehood in 2000 and 2008.

Five: Numbers tell only part of a story. The legality and intentions of Israeli counter-terrorism efforts cannot be assessed by simplistically comparing Israeli and Palestinian losses. A “scoreboard” approach to warring parties has not been applied to other difficult conflicts — whether World War II, the war in Ukraine, or US operations against Al-Qaeda after 9/11. Hamas deliberately hides and fires from among Palestinian civilians, and unlike Hamas, Israel has sought to minimize civilian casualties by warning non-combatants to evacuate battle zones. International law does not grant attackers immunity through taking human shields, as doing so would only encourage that tactic.

Six: Separate politics from truth. Some perceived arbiters of justice and legitimacy, like United Nations resolutions, must also be taken with a grain of salt — and reported with full context. The UN may well censure Israel, but news consumers need to know that an automatic majority of nearly 60 Arab and Muslim states has the UN routinely condemn the Jewish state — the Middle East’s only democracy — more than all other countries combined. (Too often, other entities, from academic bodies to labor unions, simply follow suit.) It is worth also remembering that the size of street demonstrations backing one side or another may reflect demographic realities rather than the “justness” of a certain party to the conflict.

Seven: It’s not just “war in Gaza.” The conflict, and conditions of humanitarian urgency, must not be presented only through a narrow Gazan prism. Attacks on Israel and Israelis did not begin or end on Oct. 7. Some 240 innocent Israelis, and others, continue to be held hostage in Gaza in unimaginable conditions — and rockets from Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon (both Iranian proxies), continue to terrorize millions of civilians inside Israel.

It’s said that war is hell, and conflict reporting is little better.

The “fog of war” is undeniable. Although all protagonists’ emotions run high, so do the stakes of consistent professionalism in news coverage.

For the sake of an informed public and policymakers alike, reports on the Middle East must consistently convey the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

David J. Michaels is Director of U.N. and Intercommunal Affairs at B’nai B’rith International

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NBA Star Kyrie Irving Wears Palestinian Keffiyeh in Post-Game Press Conference

Kyrie Irving of the Dallas Mavericks at his team’s post-game press conference on Nov. 18, 2023. Photo: Screenshot

Professional basketball player Kyrie Irving, who plays guard for the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks, appeared at his team’s post-game press conference on Saturday wearing a black and white keffiyeh, a traditional headscarf worn by Palestinians that has become known as a symbol of solidarity with the Palestinian resistance against Israel.

The Australian-American NBA player, who also has Native American roots, did not address the headwear as he spoke to reporters after his team’s 132-125 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks. He also posted a photo on Instagram over the weekend of himself wearing the headscarf as he walked around the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial in Washington, DC, and accepted a Palestinian flag as a gift from a basketball fan at Saturday’s game.

Irving’s decision to wear a keffiyeh garnered significant attention on social media. Pro-Israel supporters lambasted the decision as “disgusting,” accusing him of antisemitism and calling him a “POS Jew hater.” Pro-Palestinian supporters, meanwhile, applauded him for wearing the keffiyeh “in solidarity with the Palestinians” amid the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas, the Palestinian terrorist group that rules the Gaza Strip.

This weekend was not the first time that Irving embroiled himself in a controversy involving accusations of antisemitism.

In October 2022, while playing for the Brooklyn Nets, Irving tweeted a link to a film that promoted antisemitic disinformation, including conspiracy theories and Holocaust denial. The Brooklyn Nets suspended him for five games when he did not immediately apologize — and even defended himself — for sharing the movie and failing to “disavow antisemitism when given a clear opportunity to do so.”

The NBA star later apologized on Instagram for sharing details about a film that “contained some false antisemitic statements, narratives, and language that were untrue and offensive to the Jewish Race/Religion.” He said he opposed all forms of hatred and would donate $500,000 toward organizations that combat hate. It was then reported in February that he deleted the Instagram apology.

Since Hamas’ Oct. 7 terrorist attacks in Israel, Irving has shared pro-Palestinian messages on social media. The athlete — who likes to go by his Native American name “Hélà” online — has more than once reposted tweets about genocide and “crimes of the empire,” seemingly referring to Israel, by an account on X/Twitter called “End All Colonialism, Free Palestine.” He also shared messages about the US funding Israel’s alleged “genocidal massacre” in the Gaza Strip.

On Oct. 11, he seemed to comment on the Israel-Hamas conflict in his own words.

“Where are all you tough talking Media Heads that get on TV and social platforms to condemn people who stand by the oppressed??” he wrote on X. “Crimes are being committed against humanity and most of you are silent. Cat got your tongue? Or you’re afraid of actually standing for something real.”

After the Hamas atrocities on Oct. 7, the NBA said in a statement that it and the National Basketball Players Association “mourn the horrific loss of life in Israel and condemn these acts of terrorism. We stand with the people of Israel and pray for peace for the entire region.”

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